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How a COM grad student made the 2014 midterm elections her professional project

By Gina Kim
MS Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication

One of the greatest components to Boston University College of Communication’s Journalism graduate program is the professional project. When I say “greatest,” I don’t mean easy, fun or relaxing.  As with anything great comes hard work, and that is exactly what the professional project showcases. After three semesters worth of classes, sleepless nights, and every ounce of blood, sweat and tears you have finally reached the end. You are now a mere shadow of what you were when you first entered grad school, and your professional project is your opportunity to show everyone else that transformation.

What is a professional project? I will explain. All candidates for the MS in Journalism must submit a professional project in their final semester. Each student arranges for a faculty member to be their adviser for the project. Upon completion, students are expected to endeavor to sell or place their work with a professional news organization.

Third semester Broadcast Journalism student Ashley Davis set out to accomplish one of the most daunting tasks and most impressive professional project to date— The Midterms 2014, a live coverage production of this year’s midterm elections. I shall elaborate.

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Anchor Louise Liu gets ready for The Midterms 2014.

Monday, November 5 at 6 p.m., the night before Election Day, a dress rehearsal took place. About 60 BU students (both grad and undergrad) were involved, including an impressive number of BU COM faculty and staff. Everyone had a job to do. Some were helping in the studios, a handful of students (selected by Ashley after auditioning) were anchors at the National Desk and others were scattered throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire and even D.C. to act as call-in reporters for the live production.

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Professor Cavalieri helps students with technical operations in the production studio.

Ashley went over every aspect of the entire coverage the night before and explained exactly what needed to be done. After she sent the troops on their way, she remained at COM to get ready for Tuesday, November 4. This was her professional project, and since everything was going live, there wasn’t any room for mistakes, as per usual.

Tuesday, November 4 came quickly. Some people were asked to report to the studios several hours before going live at 9 p.m. At 7:30 p.m., the anchors prepared their cut-ins—pre-made news packages (stories). These packages would air in-between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m., mixed in with some live shots, on-cam anchoring and reporters calling in from different headquarters around Massachusetts.

I spent my time on COM’s third floor in Room 321, where I worked with others to help Professor Susan Walker push out live content and numbers for the anchors to live report as votes came pouring in from states across the nation.

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Ashley Davis directs on the set of The Midterms 2014.

Here is a breakdown of The Midterms 2014‘s amazing team and their various roles:

On campus at COM, in Studio East/West:

  1. First Block: Anchors Supriya Muppala and Peter Zampa
  2. Second Block: Anchors Taylor Walker and Justin Shrair
  3. Third Block: Anchors Mikaela Lefrak and Jamie Bologna

During this block, Kate Kahn — BU professor and former Senior News Producer for WHDH-TV (NBC-Boston)— served as the live shot producer, coordinating all the live reporters.  Andre Khatchaturian and Louise Liu— both Broadcast Journalism students at COM— were anchors at the National Desk. Lauren Westberg— Broadcast Journalism grad student— was a live reporter and interviewed Professor Groshek, Professor Carroll and Tom Fiedler—the Dean of COM.

Candidate Headquarters: Students were placed at all of the following locations in order to quickly report polling results back to BU’s College of Communication.

  1. Steve Sisto— MA 6th Congressional District, Seth Moulton Headquarters
  2. Paul Dudley—MA Governor Charlie Baker Headquarters
  3. Ashley Paul— MA Governor Martha Coakley  Headquarters
  4. Christina Erne—The Casino
  5. Hayley Crombleholme—MA Senate Edward Markey Headquarters
  6. Noelia Valero—Washington D.C.
  7. Rachel Mccubbin—NH Senate Scott Brown Headquarters
  8. Nikita Sampath and Rebecca Sananes—NH Senate Jeanne Shaheen Headquarters
  9. Keri McAlpine and Kathlene Gibbs—MA 6th Congressional District, Richard Tisei Headquarters

COM Professors Involved: The following faculty and staff members stayed hours and hours after they should have gone home. Instead, they helped make sure this live-production was nothing less than exceptional. Just one more example of COM’s professors doing all they can to make their students succeed.

  1. R.D. Sahl- Broadcast Journalism Professor
  2. Susan Walker- Broadcast Journalism Professor
  3. Christophor Cavalieri- Film & Television Professor
  4. Jacob Groshek- Emerging Media Studies Professor
  5. John Carroll- Mass Communication Professor
  6. Kate Kahn- COM Professor

The large production team watches live coverage at the National Desk.

The large production team watches live coverage at the National Desk.

Technical Operations Team: Quite possibly the most important part of this production, these students and staff members worked hard to make sure everything in the studio was functioning and the coverage aired without flaw.

  1. Jake Kassen- Technical Operations Manager
  2. Tristen Olly- Media Technician
  3. Scott Lovejoy- Digital Post Production Specialist
  4. Shawn Fallon- Media Technician

Additionally, BU Professor Michelle Johnson coordinated a simulcast on the Boston University News Service‘s website. Professor Anne Donohue coordinated live news updates on WTBU, Boston University’s student-run radio station. Coverage from DC was made possible with the help of journalism faculty member, Elliot Francis, who coordinated student packages from BU’s Study Abroad Washington Program.

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Anchors get ready at the National Desk.

The Midterms 2014 was an immense success. Ashley Davis could not have done a better job handling such a high-stress situation, nor could she have selected a better team. Ashley never lost her composure, always made time to answer questions and kept very calm throughout the entire evening. She had so much responsibility lying squarely on her shoulders, but yielded excellent results.

Watching Ashley’s professional project come to life makes us first semester grad students realize that this time next year, a similar task is awaiting us. Although it was a little intimidating, I now feel inspired to find a professional project in which I can showcase all I have learned throughout grad school. No other institution would provide the resources, the studios and opportunities to create something so impressive and professional. Now, not only does Ashley have a remarkable production to add to her resume, but she also made history happen, right there on the third floor of COM.

Ashley Davis’ final professional project is currently being edited. Check back here to view the final publication and follow her on Twitter @ashley_m_davis to see what else she is up to. 

On Wednesday, December 10 from 5-7 p.m. in Room 209, the College of Communication’s Department of Journalism is hosting the Journalism Graduate Showcase. The event will feature journalism graduate students presenting excerpts of their professional projects. Seniors, graduate students and faculty members are all invited. Adult beverages will be served, so please bring your ID. 

Interested in one of BU College of Communication’s graduate programs? Tell us which one and why in the comments section below. You can find out more information on our website, so be sure to check it out here

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BU’s College of Communication Pioneers Emerging Media Studies

By Ali Parisi
MS Public Relations ’16
BU College of Communication

Even if you’re not in the communication world, chances are you’ve probably heard at least one conversations discussing new media—social media has changed everything, from interpersonal communication to journalism, and more.  Traditional media may still be around, but new media is quickly growing.  It feels like an absurd amount of media outlets and technologies have come and gone over the past few years, especially with the widespread use of smartphones.  I had to wait till my freshman year of high school to get a chunky old flip phone.  Now, parents are handing iPads and iPhones to their kids before they can even talk!

YLNnbxyzAfter a few years of discussion, BU’s College of Communication finally decided to introduce a one-year Master’s program that focuses solely on new and emerging media.  The MA program, Emerging Media Studies, is one of the first in the nation to do so (go BU!).

One of the primary courses taught within EMS is a collaborative class entitled Extended Group Research Project Seminar.  Quite a mouthful, right?  But the year-long class is not as intimidating as it seems.  According to EMS Director and Professor James E. Katz, Ph.D., the class aims to prepare students to take positions that will be a fast track to leadership in various organizations by helping them to become experts in big data, consumer psychology interaction, and research methods.

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Professor Katz with his Reddit Gifts present.

“Our goal is to mentor students in doing meaningful research relating to emerging media so that when they take their post- graduate positions, they will already know how to do research and will have a portfolio to show employers,” explains Katz.  I may be a PR student, but I already love the sound of this class.  It’s a class that does more than just theoretical and academic discussions.  It’s actually preparing students for the “real world” after graduation.

One of Katz’s students, Katharine Sipio, heartily agrees.  Having majored in both English and Communication Studies at Saint Joseph’s University for undergrad this past spring, Sipio is excited for the possibilities this class has opened up.

“The readings and projects we do not only give us some strong writing samples, but [also] research skills that would be applicable in different types of careers,” says Sipio.  After taking this class, Sipio can see herself going into a “various number of communications careers such as a social media consultant, or maybe even going into PR, media management, copywriting, or exploring the world of digital writing and publishing.”

In addition to Sipio, I was able to talk with two more of Katz’s students, Adrien Park (Syracuse, ’14) and Brittany Anderson (UMASS Lowell, ’14).  All three of them had nothing but good things to say about this class, even describing it as their favorite class of the semester.  Park adds that the class has become somewhat as a family between the students and faculty because it is solely for EMS students.

“The professors and TA’s are extremely caring and helping, giving us a lot of great tips and insight about working on research [projects],” explains Park.

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Next semester, the class will begin working with a project sponsor.  This sponsor will be a local organization for which students will work on a research project that focuses specifically on that organization’s needs – just one more example of how BU is preparing its students for post-graduation careers.

Make sure to follow EMS on Twitter @DEMSatBU and like them on Facebook so you can stay updated on all the happenings within the program!

Does this sound like a program you’d like to learn more about? Tell us why in the comment section below!

Please feel free to ask us any questions you have about the EMS program and be sure to check out or website for more information on all graduate programs offered through BU’s College of Communication

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“Get buzzed”: A look inside Boston University’s Lifestyle Magazine

By Michelle Marino
MS Journalism ’15
BU College of Communication

This past week, I got out of the grad school bubble and spoke with some very knowledgeable undergrads about their experience working for the The Buzz, Boston University’s lifestyle magazine. The hard-copy magazine is published every fall and spring semester, but their online magazine publishes a variety of content on a weekly basis. The magazine’s sections include a little something for everyone – campus, city, arts, fashion, music, food, sports and travel. The site also features “The Weekly Buzz”, a video component showcasing a range of different lifestyle topics, from BU artists to features on the Assembly Row shops in Somerville.

With a mix of graduate and undergraduate students, The Buzz’s staff is large, ranging from writers to photographers to copy-editing and advertising. Alison Ortiz, a freshman in the process of transitioning over to COM’s Broadcast Journalism program, holds three different positions with the magazine. She is responsible for The Buzz‘s Instagram account, publishing for events and broadcast. Alison says she heard about The Buzz through a campus SPLASH event, where students are exposed to everything from BU’s  cultural clubs to dance groups, from academic associations to religious life.

Katie Tamola, a Journalism graduate student, writes for The Buzz‘s campus section.  “My experience has been nothing but positive and my editor has been amazing,” says Katie. “As somebody who didn’t go here for undergrad it’s ironic I covered campus. The Buzz has pushed me out of my comfort zone. Sometimes it’s daunting to go up to someone and ask them about their noncommittal sex habits, for example. It’s been so much fun and they’ve given me such great opportunities. I’m so grateful. It helped me be a better writer and gave me the confidence to write for other publications as well.” Katie also commends The Buzz for being hospitable to new ideas, saying, “If you work for campus but want to do something else, they are open to that.”

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“I’ve made filming and editing my life and got really involved,” says Alison. The magazine can be flexible to your commitment level, however, and doesn’t require you to take on more roles than you can handle. “It’s very relaxed,” she says. “You don’t have to do a million different things, you make it as much as you want it to be. They don’t restrict you or hold you back either.”

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Sarah Wu, a sophomore majoring in Journalism at BU, writes for three sections of The Buzz – campus, fashion and food. She also heard about the magazine at a SPLASH event and began attending meetings, initially starting with food and then taking on other sections. Sarah says for her, the process has been a lot of deadline juggling depending on which section is going to be published online, or what piece she is working on for the print magazine.

“It depends where we are in the cycle,” she says. “There have been times when I’m writing one article for each section. For campus, I write one monthly, for events, if something comes up like fashion, they ask can you go cover this, and for food it’s generally dining hall stuff or campus food trucks.” When asked about what she’s learned from working with The Buzz, Sarah cites time management and the opportunity to improve her writing skills. “You’ve got to learn to be on your toes,” she says. “Since I’m writing for three sections I always have deadlines and you learn to manage your time.” “The more you write the better you get,” she adds. “Being able to receive feedback from the editor is very constructive.”

387117_10151201878281163_320955595_nGianna Fischer, a sophomore PR student, manages all of The Buzz’s social media. While she writes for other organizations on campus, she wanted to focus on the business side of things as well, saying publishing is an industry often misunderstood in terms of its business orientation. “So far it’s been a really good experience and a lot more organized than other organizations I’ve worked with in the past.” Social media falls outside of The Buzz’s three main publishing components, to include publisher, events and PR/advertising. Events primarily work on the fall and spring release parties, advertising and PR build the brands and funds for print, while social media cultivates the magazine’s online presence.

The Buzz’s publishing group is really structured and keeps people directed,” says Gianna. “It’s great to be a part of something with clear cut goals and to see strong leadership.” On working the social media side of things, she comments, “It’s a real world application that I wouldn’t have at the professional level otherwise. We’re talking to actual clients. COM is great because they have AdLab and PRLab, but being able to do that before you get into those classes is nice,” she says.

386337_10151201878446163_1187353376_nI asked all three undergrads what they thought of grad student involvement at The Buzz, and they all enthusiastically supported it. “The Buzz is the type of organization that likes to push limits and be the best. Grad students would put us a step above,” says Gianna. “At the start of the semester we have an all staff meeting the first month. They tell you what The Buzz is about, give you contact information and you talk to editors. If you want to join now you can talk to a particular section. They’re very open to having new writers,” says Sarah.

On Nov. 18, The Buzz Fall 2014 print issue will launch, and copies will be available at the George Sherman Union on campus. There is also a launch party called “Refined 2014″ on Nov. 20 in the Burke Club Room at the Agganis Arena. The party is intended to promote the issue while also showcasing student talent that may have been featured in either the print or online edition. Refreshments, raffles, music and more will be provided.

Photo by Cydney Scott for Boston University
Photo by Cydney Scott for Boston University

If you are interested in joining The Buzz, you can email Ashli and Meredith (Editors-in-Chief) at the.bu.buzz@gmail.com, or contact a specific section (emails below). Have you written for The Buzz? Tell us what your experience was like.

Editorial:

Campus: campus.bu.buzz@gmail.com
City: city.bu.buzz@gmail.com
Arts & Entertainment: culture.bu.buzz@gmail.com
Music: music.bu.buzz@gmail.com
Fashion: fashion.bu.buzz@gmail.com
Food: food.bu.buzz@gmail.com
Travel: travel.bu.buzz@gmail.com
Sports: sports.bu.buzz@gmail.com

Publishing: publish.bu.buzz@gmail.com

Photography Director:  photo.bu.buzz@gmail.com

Arts: Illustrators and Graphic Designers:  art.bu.buzz@gmail.com

Broadcast: broadcast.bu.buzz@gmail.com

If you want to learn more about what graduate programs here at Boston University’s College of Communication have to offer,  please ask any questions below and visit our website.

 

 

 

 

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A look at what happens inside a Broadcast Journalism grad class

By Nikita Sampath
MS Broadcast Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication 

Broadcast Writing/Reporting (Course: JO 707) is a course taught at BU’s College of Communication (COM) that all grad students interested in Broadcast Journalism should take in their first semester. As the title suggests, the course is designed to teach us how to write a story for broadcast news and report on camera.  The course, which is taught by Professor R.D. Sahl, a veteran journalist with 40 years of experience in the field, teaches the main requirements of good story writing. These include: good writing, videography, editing, sound, natural sound and tracking. Timing is of essence too.

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At the start of the semester, JO 707 introduced us to script writing for television broadcast– attention-grabbing, short and simple sentences, with editing and production commands. Each week, we begin class with a discussion of breaking news for the day.  We then spend a considerable amount of time watching and analyzing professional news packages. For an assignment, Prof. Sahl asked us to watch evening news telecast and break it down– number of stories, kinds of packages, whether the reporter was on screen etc. This helped us learn the different ways in which news stories can be broadcast.

As for equipment, we’ve learned to use the JVC 100/150u to shoot our news packages and how to access the recording booth to do our tracking and voice overs. All necessary equipment can be rented (free of cost) from COM’s Field Production Services. Additionally, we use Final Cut Pro X to edit videos. We are very lucky in the fact that this software is available to all students in all editing and Mac computer labs at COM.  It’s great that students don’t have to worry about buying equipment or software of their own.

It’s only been six weeks and the eight of us grad students in the class are capable of producing entire packages by ourselves, one or two of which could be aired with some additional editing.

Check out this news package on the peer-sharing ride Lyft, done by Broadcast Journalism grad student Iris Moore, for last year’s JO 707 class.

One student from JO 707 said, “Prof. Sahl is a meticulous evaluator. Having watched each of our packages several times he was able to give us valuable, detailed feedback so we don’t repeat our amateur mistakes in future packages.”

From JO 707, Prof Sahl says he hopes every student will take-away the following:

  • The best TV stories have strong writing, powerful video and sound, interesting characters and a compelling story line
  • Accuracy is the coin of the realm. Get it right.
  • Deadlines matter. Meet them.
  • Care about the stories you report. It will show in the final product.

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To learn more about the BU’s College of Communication Journalism graduate program, go here. A list of offered Journalism courses can also be found here.  

Have questions? Ask us in the comment section below. Also, be sure to visit our site to learn more about the various graduate programs we offer at COM.

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What it actually means to get a Masters in PR

By Ali Parisi
MS Public Relations ’16
BU College of Communication

What is public relations you ask? Writing.

As a first semester PR grad student, that’s at least how I see it.  In fact, one of my favorite classes this semester has turned out to be Writing for Media Professionals with Professor Dorothy Clark.

In high school, if you had told me that I would end up loving writing, I would have flat out laughed in your face.  Back then, the only type of writing we did was to analyze works of literature.  And if you didn’t agree with the teacher’s analysis, you wouldn’t agree with your grade either.  That type of writing was just not for me.

But this class is the complete opposite.  Instead of writing to agree with someone else, I get to write for my audience (or, as we like to call them in PR, “publics”).  I get to write things that I can actually use in the fabled “real world.”

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For example, one assignment had us write a traditional news release.  To simplify things, Professor Clark had us write about a made-up conference for which she provided all of the information and facts about the hosting organization. That way, we could focus on both prioritizing the information to fit the format of a news release and also on writing in the objective voice, typical of that writing format.

To make this assignment even more hands-on, we also had to do a second, social media version of the news release; honestly, had no idea what a social media news release was before this class, but everyone knows that social media is huge today, and online news is growing faster than traditional media.  This assignment gave me a taste of both and helped me feel like I was actually learning something practical and applicable for my future career in PR.

Another assignment from this class, and easily my favorite so far, was to “create a blog with a focused brand for yourself” (straight from the syllabus).  I really enjoyed this assignment because we were able to write about something that we are truly interested in, rather than being assigned a topic that we don’t care about.  I chose to create a blog that focused on fashion from an athlete’s perspective.  Check it out here (Note: keep in mind that I made this site for the assignment and therefore it may not be perfect! Meaning the social media links don’t actually link to anything, etc.).

Everything we do in this class is up-to-date and tailored to fit the demands of new media.  Aside from the blog and news releases, we’ve also worked with Twitter, created a landing page for an event, and will be working on a feature and slideshow in the next few weeks.  We’re always talking about writing online as being a portal to other information, writing in your voice versus a company’s voice, and more.  Most of our assignments have second drafts, which gives us the chance to review and refine our work after getting criticism.  I feel that this is extremely valuable for the real workplace, where editors are more likely to chop up your work and spit it back at you, demanding a re-write.

If all of my classes in grad school are as engaging and hands on as this one, I have a feeling I’ll be just fine.

Check out the video below of Alumna Sandra Frazier (’01)  as she shares how the Public Relations courses she took at BU helped prepare her for working in the real world. Frazier is CEO of Tandem Public Relations in Louisville, KY.

Think you have better ideas for future PR assignments? Leave a note in the comments below!

Interested in BU’s College of Communication Public Relations graduate program? Ask us any questions in the comment section. Also, be sure to check out our program webpage for more information the various graduate programs we have to offer.